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Catskill Camping

This past weekend, I took a solo trip (as in… no toddler, no husband) with a bunch of good friends to go camping in the Catskills.

I felt bad about ditching my family to go have fun with our friends. But, well, not quite so bad that I didn’t enjoy the hell out of putting my feet up in front of the campfire.

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There was a bit of a mix-up when it came to our campground. Through a combination of bad google results and highways that have to route around mountains, we ended up camping in part of the region that involved a rather, errr, lengthy drive. As in, Yogurt and I left my house bright and early Saturday morning and didn’t get to the campsite until six hours later.

(Traffic was the sucks.)

(To be fair, there was a stop for lunch in there.)

(And ice cream. There was totally a stop for ice cream.)

The drive itself wasn’t bad at all. The Catskills are beautiful, so even when we got off the highway and had to wind our way through little back roads, we still had beautiful vistas to keep us entertained. We also used the drive as a chance to catch up with each other, and to talk through some stuff that’s been weighing on each of us.

Basically, what I’m saying is… you know somebody is a damn good friend when you can spend 6 hours in transit with them and emerge on the other end thinking “wow, that was nice” and not “Oh my god, if I ever hear him say another word it will be too damn soon.”

(I won’t speak for Yogurt, but I was definitely in the “wow, that was nice” camp.)

Plus, then we got to the campground and there were cheese balls, and good friends, and fresh mountain air, and the car ride pretty much melted away.

(There was also absolutely no cellphone reception, but we all agreed that this was a net positive.)

My brain was feeling pretty good after our car ride, but my leg muscles were an entirely different story. Besides, nothing says “I am so excited to spend the rest of the weekend with you guys,” than strapping on your running shoes and going on a solo jog up the side of the mountain. Good friends, they totally understand when you need to get your legs moving.

Did I mention the side of the mountain? Because the elevation profile of my run was freaking insane. I only did four miles, but I got back to the campsite drenched like I’d just run an entire half marathon. I will totally cop to stopping to walk a few times… mostly because I was thinking that maybe it’s not such a good thing to be able to feel your heart beating in your ears.

Did I also mention that we thought our campground didn’t have any showers? Because we totally thought our campground didn’t have any showers. It is another testament to my friends that their response to my “oh shit, I probably shouldn’t go running if I can’t take a shower afterwards” with “Camping means getting dirty. Go for your run… we’re all going to stink by the end of the weekend.”

I thought about taking a hobo shower in the bathroom, but Pepper and I ended up jumping into an ice-cold river instead. I have to say, frolicking in the river was worth the price of admission. It took a couple of hours warming up next to the fire to really start feeling my extremities, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

We spent the rest of the night eating an amazing dinner that everybody helped cook over the campfire.

(Ok, my contribution was more of the eating and complimenting variety, but we all have our roles to play.)

The fire burned down to coals and we roasted marshmallows, made s’mores, and kept talking. Then it burned down to embers, and we decided that getting some sleep might not be such a bad idea. I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive a night in a tent without Kristian to glom onto and steal his heat succubus-style, but lucky for me it never got all that cold.

We stumbled out of our tents the next morning and managed to put together coffee, oatmeal, eggs, and glorious, glorious bacon. I am normally 100% not in favor of food photography, but for campfire bacon I made an exception. I mean look at this.

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If that doesn’t say “best weekend ever,” then what does?

We packed our stuff up, but we weren’t ready to head home, so we decided to do a day hike together. My sister had suggested that we check out Kaaterskill Falls, so we made plans to drive to that part of the region and then take a little hike. It ended up being a decent drive away, but it was mostly in the correct direction. A direction that took us past some stunning views. I mean, there’s a reason that the Hudson River School folks liked to paint around there. You can’t shake a paint brush without bumping into some amazing vista that looks out across a crystal clear mountain lake.

The only problem with Kaaterskill Falls? It offers an effort to payoff ratio that approaches one. The trail is only 0.4 miles, and the falls are amazing. Translation? The trail is covered with goobers. And the trash that they leave behind. I’m pretty sure we talked our way out of a nasty ticket (we were parked on the shoulder and hadn’t noticed the no parking sign) because the cop was just happy to see that there were some people out and about wearing proper footwear. “The area isn’t big enough to support all these people,” he complained, “and none of them come prepared. Look at that guy – he’s barefoot!”

(Sadly, a woman died there last week because she was hiking where the signs clearly say you are not supposed to hike. And she was wearing flip-flops.)

(After we saw the makeshift memorial at the trail head, it made a lot more sense why the cop we met seemed so stressed out.)

The trail might be crowded, but it’s a fun little scramble up to the falls. And, once you get up there, the view is amazing.

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Like I said, the effort to reward ratio is just too good. They need to demolish the current parking lots, and then start a new trailhead about 2-3 miles down the road. If they make the trail long enough, I can pretty much guarantee that the crowds will thin out automagically. And most people will be too exhausted at the end of the hike to ignore the caution signs, scramble up to the top of the falls in their flip-flops, and then fall to their deaths. As it stands, the trail is just long enough to get you into the rhythm of it, but not long enough to tire you out. I’m not surprised that so many people want to keep going.

We stayed out of the danger zone, but we still managed to have some fun.

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We dilly-dallied by the side of the road for a bit, but then it was time to say goodbye. Our Brooklyn friends headed back to the city, and Pepper, Yogurt, and I got ready to head back to Boston.

But wait! There was more!

“Uh…. guys? Uh…. bear?”

I’m surprised that Yogurt was able to get that many words out. I would have been too busy squeaking and flapping my arms. But, there it was, maybe 150 feet from our car. A little black bear, scampering across the road. We didn’t wait to find out if his mom was hanging out somewhere. We threw our bags into the trunk and quickly drove off. Did I mention quickly? Because it was damn quick.

I have seen many animals in the wild, but I had never seen a wild bear before. Until this weekend. He was just close enough to be amazing, just far enough away that nobody pooped themselves in the literal sense. Black bears be shiny, yo. I had no idea.

We headed for the highway, and luck was on our side this time. We made great time. We stopped in Connecticut just long enough to bring my sister some cheer and some pizza. Did I mention how awesome my friends are? Because, seriously, nothing says “awesome friends” like a 2-hour pitstop in Connecticut to cheer up somebody else’s sister.

We finally rolled into Boston around 10:30pm, exhausted but happy. We all agreed that we needed a weekend from our weekend, but we also agreed that it had been well worth it. I took one of the greatest showers of my life, and then I expressed my love and appreciation for my bed by melting into it.

(There was also some love and appreciation for my husband who took on solo parenting duty for a weekend so that I could go play in the woods.)

We used to go hiking and camping all the time, but we haven’t done anything more serious than some day hikes since Lilian showed up. This weekend definitely inspired me to make more of an effort to get out into nature. We just got an awesome Deuter hiking child-carrier/backpack as a hand-me-down, so now we have no excuse not to haul Lilian up a mountain or two.

I promise, nobody will be wearing flip-flops.

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